Goshen College first-year students Yesenia Orellana and Aranza Torres became fast friends during a summer program that helps Goshen students prepare for the transition to college. The two young Latino women found that they both knew people who were struggling with being undocumented.“We felt very lucky to have the opportunity to attend college when we knew that there were many of the 65,000 undocumented students that
graduate [high school] every year that would not be able to attend college like us,” Orellana said.
When Orellana talked to a local Elkhart County group, Indiana’s Dream Initative, she heard about the DREAM Act and found there were no groups at Goshen working to educate students about the act. She and Torres decided to see what they could do to work with the DREAM Act.
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, is a bill that offers immigrant students the opportunity to receive conditional residency status if they attend college or join the military. The bill was first introduced to Congress in 2001 by Senator Orrin Hatch, a Republican from Utah, and Senator Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois.
On May 11, 2011, the bill was reintroduced into both the House and the Senate. If passed, immigrant students could qualify for “conditional permanent resident status,” according to the bill text. The proposed bill requires that, to be eligible, students enter the United States before turning 16 and have “good moral character.” It also necessitates that students receive a high school diploma or GED and that they have lived in the United States continuously for five years.
Orellana and Torres are working to help other Goshen students become more knowledgeable about the bill. Currently, the group is working with the activism branch of the campus, the Latino Student Union. Orellana said the students are still in the process of finding a name for the group.
“We feel strongly about this issue, because we know people who are directly impacted by it,” Orellana said. “There are a lot of people who don’t know a lot about it, but it is something that effects people our own age.”
“This issue impacts college students everywhere,” Orellana said. “It will affect this generation and generations to come. It’s an issue that needs to be addressed, because it has been in Congress for ten years and it hasn’t been resolved.”
Jacob Putnam, a Goshen student whose mother emigrated from Laos, said he has directly seen the impact living in the United States makes.
“This country has given the opportunity for my mom, uncles, and aunts, both in America and in Laos … to achieve their dreams,” Putnam said.
Putnam is involved with the Goshen group advocating for the act and says he wants others to know what the DREAM Act could mean for their futures.
“We’re just trying to get people aware of what the DREAM Act really is,” Putnam said.
Angeliky Santos, another student involved with promoting the act on campus, said she hopes this bill helps people become more educated.
“I believe that education is priceless,” Santos said. “No one can ever steal it from a person. It transforms dreams and goals into reality and accomplishment. This work is a way to help people, just like me, transform their dreams into their reality.”
As for Goshen College, Orellana says she thinks the DREAM Act fits within values the college teaches.
“GC students are taught to make a difference in the world and make it better for humanity. This [bill] would show that. It creates an opportunity for students to show that [belief],” Orellana said.
For more information about the DREAM act or to get involved with the on-campus group, email Yesenia Orellana at firstname.lastname@example.org.